Cisco kicks off annual analyst conference

Cisco Systems kicks off its 11th annual Worldwide Analyst Conference with an announcement of new technologies directed at service providers and a greater focus on application services technologies, which CEO John Chambers expected to discuss Tuesday.

But a big share of attention at the three-day analyst event, being held in Santa Clara, Calif., may be on security in light of the well-publicized attempts in July by Cisco to quash a Black Hat presentation on ways to exploit the company's router IOS vulnerabilities.

"The key question is, what is Cisco doing to make it easier to patch [IOS]," said John Pescatore, an analyst at Gartner last week. "We know they have stepped up their use of software-vulnerability testing tools to find holes in IOS, but it still appears to be outside security analysts who are finding the holes. So what is Cisco doing to get ahead of that curve?"

Pescatore said a comprehensive patch announced last month by Cisco -- and earlier patches from the company -- are difficult to deploy because they require an IT manager to turn off a device, load a new image and restart. Worse, he said, there are dozens of versions of IOS in use at most large companies, requiring managers to shut down the network and configure each device individually, something Pescatore called a "big problem."

Another analyst, Deb Mielke of Treillage Network Strategies said Cisco, like Microsoft, has become a target of hackers. "Hackers love to bring the big guys to their knees," she said. But Mielke said Cisco's technology is not inherently more easily breached than that of any other supplier.

Tomorrow, Chambers is expected to announce a new advanced technology, this time in the area of application services, according to people with knowledge of the conference who asked not to be named.

Cisco sells products in advanced technologies such as wireless networking in addition to its more traditional switching and routing products. The focus on application services builds on Cisco's May acquisition of Fineground Networks and its June announcement of Application Oriented Networking technology.

Today's focus is on service providers with an announcement of a module for the CRS-1 (Carrier Routing System) to provide IP over Dense Wave Division Multiplexing technology. Service providers should like that news, Mielke said, because it will help reduce the number of components they need and brings IP to optical networking.

Suraj Shetty, director of marketing for Cisco's routing technology group, said IP over DWDM will help service providers efficiently manage the growth of video and IP television traffic.

Other new products for service providers slated to be announced include what analysts called the first integrated Session Border Controller, which will be available on Cisco's XR 12000 series router and is designed to help deliver integrated voice call signaling.

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